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EDSS helps foster the arts

World-renowned sculptor Timothy Schmalz. [Scott Barber / The Observer]

Some of Elmira District Secondary School’s most creative alumni gathered in the school’s library on June 10 to discuss their careers and reflect on the 75th anniversary reunion.

Presenters commented on the uniqueness of the EDSS community.

World-renowned sculptor Timothy Schmalz. [Scott Barber / The Observer]
World-renowned sculptor Timothy Schmalz. [Scott Barber / The Observer]
“I remember getting to class one day and the teacher said, ‘It’s such a beautiful day, I want everyone outside drawing,’” Timothy Schmalz recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘what an amazing, creative place this is.’ The teachers were so encouraging.”

Now a world-renowned sculptor who specializes in Christian art, Schmalz recounted how EDSS staff supported his application to the Ontario College of Art during his senior year.

“My marks [in subjects outside of art} were just not there. So what happened was the teachers got around with the principal and they just basically said, ‘Okay, let’s get this guy to pass’  – I do appreciate that. That’s what I expect from an amazing school like EDSS. They made that exception for me.”

The “Lancers in the arts” show was part of the EDSS 75 celebration, which brought former students, teachers and staff together from June 6-8.

Animation specialist Sarah Mercey described how EDSS helped to shape her path.

Sarah Mercey showed how a scene was created in the Disney film “Brother Bear.” [Scott Barber / The Observer]
Sarah Mercey showed how a scene was created in the Disney film “Brother Bear.” [Scott Barber / The Observer]
“[Growing up] I was bored, but the amazing kind of bored that allowed a little girl to develop my most important muscle, which is my imagination. Besides the time and space to use my imagination, Elmira provided me with loads of support, from my family of course, and my teachers and the community.”

Mercey has worked in animation for Walt Disney and Pixar films including Ratatoullie, Wall-E, Lilo and Stitch and Toy Story 3, where she helped design adorable characters like “Lots-o-Huggin-Bear” and Bonnie.

Her inspiration came from watching The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, along with guidance from the EDSS art department.

“It occurred to me that someone makes these films, someone actually has to sit down and draw that. So I asked (teacher) George Caesar, ‘You know how the characters move in those movies? What is that called?’ and he said, ‘Do you mean animation? You can go to school for that.’”

She did just that, completing the classical animation program at Sheridan College, quickly followed by a position at Disney’s feature animation department in Orlando, Florida.

Now, the Canadian Screen Award winner is taking the next creative leap by creating and directing her own films.

Nan Forler authored the children’s books “Bird Child” and “Winterberries and Apple Blossoms.”[Scott Barber / The Observer]
Nan Forler authored the children’s books “Bird Child” and “Winterberries and Apple Blossoms.” [Scott Barber / The Observer]
“For the first time since I lived in Elmira as a kid, I’ve actually had the time and space to focus completely on my own projects. So I story-boarded a short film, her name is Jinx and she is kind of a little terror.”

She’s also enjoying digital painting and developing a children’s television show called “Next Time,” which is about “learning to stick your neck out to try new things.”

Other presenters included authors Pat Brezynski and Nan Forler, singer Giselle Sanderson, stage director Kevin Ewert, and blacksmith Robb Martin.

Like many EDSS graduates, Timothy Schmalz was the second generation in his family to attend the school, and he hopes there will be a third.

“After 25 years, it was nice to walk the halls again and to look back on those times. Living here in St. Jacobs, I am glad my kids are going to get the chance to attend EDSS, because there are no other schools like it.”

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